This book was phenomenal! It’s for a reason that many popular magazines and bookish media keep mentioning «The Vanishing Half» by Britt Bennett as one of the most-anticipated releases of this summer. I literally saw a dozen of 2020 summer reading lists with this book.
It’s such an important book as well, especially with everything that is going on right now and the need that people feel to educate themselves on race and racial identity. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to read it and discuss it with all of you.
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ story lines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
Thank you Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK – Dialogue Books for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way.
I’m not going to break this post in What I liked and didn’t like segments because I loved everything. Instead, I want to highlight some of the most important topics, in my opinion, that this book made me think about.
1 – Racial identity. «The Vanishing Half» is not only about race. But racial identity does have the center stage in the story. We follow two twin sisters, Desiree and Stella Vignes who live in a small community called Mallard in Louisiana. The community that always strived to create “a more perfect Negro. Each generation lighter than the one before”. They felt the need to give up their identity in prol of a better future for their children who will no longer be black and will have more opportunities in their lives.
In this book, Brit Bennett explores the theme of racial identity and we are faced with many questions throughout the story – Does the color of your skin dictate which race you belong to? Or maybe society does it for you? Are you ready to give up your racial identity for a “better” future?
As someone who never had to go through this struggle, this book was truly eye-opening for me, and I really hope that more and more people will hear about it and read it because of the important subjects and views included in this story.
2 – Sexual identity. As I mentioned before, this book is not only about race. It explores so many different subjects and I loved how matter-of-fact they were presented. Reading this story was like looking into someone else’s life without any personal feelings from the author, and I really appreciate that. It gives us the possibility to come to our own conclusions and that’s the best thing about reading – that it makes us think, analyze, and create the base for new beliefs.
I really think that representation in «The Vanishing Half» was superbly done and would love to see what you, guys, think when you read it!
3 – The big “what if”. Brit Bennett solved this problem in a very clever way! She made her main characters twin sisters. So different from each other, they gave her the opportunity to explore two possible outcomes. What if they chose to escape their life and make a new one? What if they would have stayed in Mallard?
We saw the answers to both of these questions, as the sisters followed completely different routes, built completely opposite lives.
4 – Story that spans generations. This might be my favorite type of stories – the ones that let us explore future generations and the impact our choices have on them. In «The Vanishing Half» we also follow the daughters of Desiree and Stella Vignes. Even though they have never met their respective aunt, we still can see similarities in them which show the power of family bonds.
There are certain books that leave a great impact on us. The ones that will always come to mind and the stories that we will remember for many years to come. I believe «The Vanishing Half» is exactly that type of book!
Will you be reading «The Vanishing Half» this summer? Have you ever read anything with a similar concept? Let me know in the comments below!